Are Congressional Republicans Getting Cold Feet on Infrastructure?

CHUCK SCHUMER’S AMBITIOUS GOAL for Senate consideration of an infrastructure package will collide with two huge obstacles this week — the bill hasn’t been written yet, and there’s no agreement on how to pay for it.

SCHUMER IS INSISTING ON A PROCEDURAL VOTE this Wednesday to begin consideration of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that would fund spending on highways, bridges, clean water, broadband, etc. This still has a chance of passage before the early August recess.

BUT WILL TEN REPUBLICANS SUPPORT IT? That’s the goal; Schumer wants all 50 Democrats plus 10 Republicans to pass a filibuster-proof bill. But Republicans have balked on spending billions more on the Internal Revenue Service, which theoretically would raise $100 by curbing tax avoidance. That provision apparently has been booted, which means there’s a $100 billion revenue gap.

COMING UP WITH A FINAL BILL by Wednesday thus appears to be unlikely, since those Republicans willing to deal aren’t going to support a measure that hasn’t been written yet. And GOP lawmakers have no interest in supporting a second infrastructure bill costing about $2 trillion, with huge money for education, health care, tuition relief, Green projects, etc.

THERE’S ONE OTHER WILD CARD: The Congressional Budget Office, the official arbiter of what can be included in these bills, may rule that revenue assumptions are too generous, or that provisions like immigration reform are not germane in an infrastructure bill.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR THE MARKETS: There’s a growing sense that the U.S. economy will slide from robust growth in May to simply good growth in November. So more stimulus may be needed; where will that come from? A child tax credit and a generous Social Security cost of living increase by year-end will help, as will the likelihood that gasoline will follow oil prices downward.

BUT AN INFRASTRUCTURE BILL WOULD HELP STIMULATE THE ECONOMY amid a suddenly gloomy mood over a stunning resurgence of Covid cases, urban gun violence and environmental disasters from California to Germany.

BUT REPUBLICANS MAY NOT BE READY to pass the first infrastructure bill this week, and they will adamantly oppose a second measure — still another headache for Joe Biden.

Related: A Washington Lightning Round: What Are the Chances ...

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